Sir George Beaumont is a key figure in the history of British art. As well as being a respected amateur landscape painter, he was a prominent patron, a collector, and co-founder of the National Gallery. William Wordsworth described Beaumont’s friendship as one of the chief blessings of his life, and this edition reveals that the two men became collaborators as well as companions. In addition to documenting unique perspectives on social, political, and cultural events of the early nineteenth century (providing new contexts for reading Wordsworth’s mature poetry), the letters collected here chart the progress of an increasingly intimate inter-familial relationship. The picture that emerges is of a coterie that – in influence, creativity, and affection – rivals Wordsworth’s more famous exchange with Coleridge at Nether Stowey in the 1790s. The edition includes an extended study of how Wordsworth and Beaumont helped shape one another’s work, tracing processes of mutual artistic development that involved not only a meeting of aristocratic refinement and rural simplicity, of a socialite and a lover of retirement, of a painter and a poet, but also an aesthetic rapprochement between neoclassical and romantic values, between the impulse to idealize and the desire to particularize.
'Jessica Fay's edition of the letters of the Beaumonts to the Wordsworths now makes possible a two-way understanding of their personal relationship as well as a new perspective on the creative relationship Wordsworth and Beaumont experienced. [...] Beaumont has left us an abundance of epistolary evidence to assess his impact on Wordsworth. In the words of Magnuson, these letters let us hear both sides of their conversation.' Richard Matlak, Review 19